Author Topic: True Symbol--houserule?  (Read 4821 times)

Zaq

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True Symbol--houserule?
« on: December 21, 2013, 02:18:23 PM »
So earlier this week, I finally got a group of my friends to actually sit down together and really look seriously at Legend (I've been preaching about it for months and months, and folks have expressed passive interest, but it wasn't until now that a whole group of us decided to actually look at it together with an eye towards building characters and starting a campaign), which makes me happy. As everyone involved started shaping up their individual character ideas (which are nice and diverse), folks started flipping through the item section to just look at what's available and start planning wishlists. Every single one of us independently decided that the True Symbol is the perfect first Relic to pick up, and that nothing else comes close. (I've been building characters in my head for a long time, and I've never made one with access to Relics who didn't immediately pick the True Symbol, but everyone came to the exact same conclusion.) And so we have a problem.

The question, of course, is what to do about it. Because if everyone, no matter what their character archetype looks like, immediately latches on to the exact same option, then that option is somehow a problem. What I'm trying to decide is how to make it less of a problem. One option would be to just remove it: the logic would be that if it's that far above everything else, then it's OP and shouldn't be available. The problem there is that it's a cool toy, and people do kind of want to have it. A second option is to make it an Artifact instead of a Relic: the logic would be that it's in the game for a reason (and ER/PS C4 indicate that extra actions are not themselves unexpected by the system), but that it's simply more in line with Artifact power than Relic power. This might be similar to just booting it from the game, but it's a thought. Another option might be to limit the power of the True Symbol: make it limited in uses per [Encounter], or put a recharge of a [Round] or two on it, or make it come with a drawback ([HP reduction], a penalty to AC, straight up self-damage, or something else? Totally brainstorming on the fly), or something else entirely. Power-with-a-drawback is rarely awesome game design, though, because if the drawback is too great, it's like removing the option entirely, and if it's not enough, then the option is still too powerful. And I'm just a player kludging around, not a designer with lots of playtesting and feedback to work with.

The option that seemed to garner the most general approval at the table was removing the True Symbol from the game and just baking an extra action into part of your character's progression. In other words, at a certain level, you simply get an extra swift action per [Round]. It's a boost in power over baseline, of course. A big one. But the idea is that, so long as everyone is going to just pounce on the True Symbol at level 10 anyway, this gives everyone what they were going to snag without impeding our ability to get items that actually fit the characters. The question, of course, is when to give out such a boost. Level 10 is when the normal True Symbol comes online, and it's roughly when track-based extra swifts hit the field, but since characters are already getting their first Relic then, that might be a pretty large boost in power to hit right away. 14 would put it at the timing of the SECOND Relic: late enough that you're definitely in "high level" mode (subjective, so I guess I shouldn't say "definitely," but you're not the boss of me), but not so late that it'll absolutely never be reached. 13 doesn't have as clear a power jump (on a system level) as many nearby levels do: 10 is your first Relic, 11 is your second iterative, 12 is a high-level feat and a scaling point for quite a few lower feats (not to mention a new circle tier), 14 is another Relic, and 15 is both a feat and a new circle tier, so giving it at 13 might be an option.

I will emphasize that I'm looking for a solution for my particular group. I'm not necessarily advocating a system-level change, at least not yet. But it really seems to me that my group is not going to be satisfied with True Symbol as written.

I'm not sure what to do. If we leave it as written, then when level 10 rolls around, the entire party will just pounce on the True Symbol all at once, and that just doesn't sit too well with any of us (though none of us are willing to give it up unless all of us give it up, effectively banning it). But we're not sure how to keep it (or anything like it) in the game without having it be, effectively, a "Relic tax." Thoughts, recommendations, experiences?
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Draz

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Re: True Symbol--houserule?
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2013, 03:53:52 PM »
True Symbol is probably the Relic my characters are most likely to pick up, but not all of them go for it.  Some track combos just don't give all that great of uses for Swift actions, at least not more than once per round.  (For one obvious example, an out-of-the-box Monk would just be silly to take a True Symbol.)

On the other hand, the True Symbol makes some cool track combinations feasible that otherwise would only get to use their cool abilities half the time.  Or makes single tracks viable at higher levels that would otherwise be pretty weak (Runesong Scholar).

So if it's too popular in your group, what you have to ask yourself is this: what drawback could be added that wouldn't be a big deal to very swift-action-intensive builds, but would make other builds go "Eh, I think I'd rather take _____ relic instead"?  Of the options you brainstormed, my mind gravitates towards the [HP reduction] option the most, but that's just a gut reaction.

One quick brainstorm idea to add: maybe attuning a True Symbol counts as attuning a Relic and a Lesser Item, so taking it effectively means you have to sacrifice one of the minor items your character has already been using.

DragoonWraith

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Re: True Symbol--houserule?
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2013, 04:45:25 PM »
Gotta say, I agree with every point, Zaq. I'd even lean towards earlier points for the "free" True Symbol, and I'd also consider leaving the True Symbol in the game (a third swift is valuable to many fewer builds than the second, and it would be a very specialized build that needed four).
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Exelixi

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Re: True Symbol--houserule?
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2013, 07:50:40 PM »
Ehhh. I don't buy it.

Yes, there are a few no-brainer options in Legend for certain builds. True Symbol is one of them. If your build eats swifts, you take True Symbol. That isn't much different from taking Manyspell Magus if you cast spells, or Bittersea Depths if you use any kind of magic that isn't Necromancer.

If EVERYONE in your group is looking at True Symbol as their first Relic, one of two things is happening:

1: Everyone has swift-intensive builds. If this is the case, you may want to see if the party is flowing together cohesively and not everyone is doing the same thing. If it checks out, that's fine; there isn't a problem.

2: Newbies are vastly overestimating the usefulness of an extra swift action just because it's An Extra Action. Sit down with your group and look at how many of their builds actually use swift actions. For builds that do, see above; for builds that don't, look at other Relic options, like a Relic Weapon or Shield or Magister's Staff.

Baking an extra swift action into standard level progression is almost certainly a bad idea. It makes swift-heavy builds more powerful for no cost. This makes swift-light builds much weaker by comparison.

Likewise, giving True Symbol a cost above other Relics is also a bad idea, for the same reason; instead of rewarding characters for making swift-using builds, you're punishing them, making non-swift-using builds stronger.
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Tenno Seremel

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Re: True Symbol--houserule?
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2013, 03:15:57 AM »
Quote
The question, of course, is what to do about it. Because if everyone, no matter what their character archetype looks like, immediately latches on to the exact same option, then that option is somehow a problem.

Nobody is mass buffer in your group, I guess, or Unfinished Cathedral would be the best thing since sliced bread for that person ☺

Draz

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Re: True Symbol--houserule?
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2013, 03:18:56 AM »
Nobody is mass buffer in your group, I guess, or Unfinished Cathedral would be the best thing since sliced bread for that person ☺
How so?  I've never really paid much attention to UC or understood the purpose of it.

Castodas

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Re: True Symbol--houserule?
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2013, 04:01:52 AM »
I like how Zaq is always finds something to play devils advocate with in Legend. 

I am speaking sincerely. Legend is still fairly new and while its pretty freakin swell, I'm sure there are still a few things out there that need a good wack with a hammer to make sure its stable.  So, thanks Zaq. I'm no mastermind with these sort of gaming things so I can appreciate those that are.

There are plenty of others as well, so thanks to you guys too.

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Re: True Symbol--houserule?
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2013, 04:24:38 AM »
How so?  I've never really paid much attention to UC or understood the purpose of it.

Mass buffing is done using Bastion track which broadcasts your spells to your comrades. You really don't want to be moved away from where you are standing since that means your allies might be out of Bastion's range which causes massive debuff for your party.

Zaq

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Re: True Symbol--houserule?
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2013, 03:18:09 PM »
@Castodas: Heh, thanks. That's what it's all about, right?

@Exelixi: See, this is why I decided to come to the forums instead of just taking a Sharpie to the rulebook willy-nilly. You're right that changing swift access changes the relative values of swift-heavy and swift-light builds, of course. It does look like everyone really does have enough uses for swifts that True Symbol is appropriate overall, though that's not surprising . . . we've all got at least a moderate amount of experience with D&D, so we understand the value of making sure that you have a use for all of your actions (but also of making sure that you don't have too many more tricks than you do actions with which to use them), and we build appropriately. I still maintain that True Symbol is an issue, since it's not actually hard to get enough options for your swift actions that an extra one per [Round] is incredibly useful. (In fact, finding three tracks that synergize nicely and DON'T use a bunch of swift actions is practically a challenge in itself, ignoring the many feats, items, and skills that use swifts. Far from impossible, but nonetheless very real.) Even if it's not the absolute best option for every possible build, it's still disproportionately valuable, but I don't know how best to address that.

@Draz: I'm decreasingly confident that the drawback is a good option, just because the TS is currently so universally desirable (or nearly so). I don't want a drawback to disproportionately favor some builds over others, because that's saying "this style of build is more worthy of the TS than that style of build," and that's not the intent.

@DragoonWraith: I don't know about that. If you know you're going to have access to lots of swifts, it's really easy to find uses for them all. From a player's perspective, the promise of "more toys!" is always shiny and fun, but I don't want to just ratchet up the power level too much. The prospect of giving out a free TS is popular less because it's a free power boost and more because it's the fairest way to dodge the "item tax" issue without removing it from the game entirely.

I don't know what we'll end up doing. I really don't. But I appreciate the feedback here, definitely.
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Exelixi

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Re: True Symbol--houserule?
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2013, 01:36:28 AM »
Hm. I think of it like this:

Yes, it's easier to synergise tracks by action type than many other options. In doing so, you have chosen to take True Symbol as a relic. "I want to not have to spend my Relic on the Relic that's most useful for my build" is nonsensical; whether it's True Symbol because you use swift actions a lot or Magister's Staff because you cast spells or whatever. What you are essentially saying is that you want every character to have a free Relic at a certain level; I don't really approve of that as a design thing, but if you're going to do it, do it RIGHT, and give everyone their choice of a Relic at that level, including characters with FBI, and including all enemies.

In essence, it's only an "item tax" if you MAKE it an item tax; everyone in your (sounds like long-standing) group coming in with certain axioms and building according to those isn't anything to do with the system, it's to do with the group. If they don't want to feel like they're paying a "tax" to get a powerful option for their build, they should make different builds.

Yes, swift actions are neat. Yes, lots of builds use them, and those builds are often popular archetypes. No, that doesn't really mean you should acquire a Relic for free at a certain level.

One solution that might work if everyone still doesn't want to put on their big kid pants and stop whining for freebies would be to give the group Legendary; they can then take Iron Monger at level five and be done with it. 
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Re: True Symbol--houserule?
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2013, 09:50:03 AM »
Exelixi, I do not think that you understand the problem.

The problem is not that people deserve True Symbol for free or something.

The problem is that True Symbol becomes the #1, first, top, always, must-have choice for Relic for a huge number of builds. As in you have to actively go out of your way to avoid needing it. That has been my experience. I have never made a Legend character that didn't want it ASAP, I have never played with a Legend character ASAP, and as I recall among the characters I saw for your game that allowed us to be Legendary, just about everyone used that to get a True Symbol early. Because it's that necessary.
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Mystify

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Re: True Symbol--houserule?
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2013, 12:19:25 PM »
I do agree that everyone taking true symbol is fishy. However, a lot of that is  because it is a build enabler. There are TONS of builds that are simply not feasible without 2 swifts per round. The issue isn't that other relics aren't also awesome, its that this one is what will make the character function. Moving it to artifact makes it kick in too late to be meaningful, and effectively disallowed these builds unless you are starting at artifact level. Granting it as a given to character progression hampers those who weren't swift-crazy. Hampering it just destroys the benefits it is offering to the system.

The issue is deep rooted in how the system is designed. Action economy is key. Swifts are very common. Swifts are light enough that granting extras is reasonable. So, without multiple swift actions, many builds fall apart over swift action conflicts. Hence, a true symbol is a necessary element of the game. And yes, because it is fulfilling so fundamental of a role, it is extremely popular.
But it is not free. It has a very high opportunity cost.  And it is not out of line with other relics

Lets compare other relics:
blink treads: free [teleport] on all movement
This is equvialent to a feat(shadow blink)+swift action every round. It objectively gives more than true symbol, but has less flexibility

mote of fear:
inflicts a -3 penalty to opponent's AC, saves, and attacks. If it works, you are basically granting the entire party the attack bonus of a relic, the AC of a relic, and a boost to save DCs that is not easy to come by. This completely rocks, with no action cost.

winged armor:
+4 AC, flight, natural weapon, boosted movement speed, Daze on hit

Not to mention wraithblade, shockwave, or vorpal weapons. A destruction guy can take a true symbol for a swift each round to cleave, or get a shockwave weapon, and hit people in a 60ft cone twice per round. A demon/celestial can spend get a true symbol to get a +3 attack bonus each round, or they could get a wraithblade weapon, with its innate attack bonus combined with the AC piercing, allowing them to get a roughly equivalent bonus most of the time, a higher bonus against the heavy AC targets, and can allow them to use their +3 attack bonus in addition for the guys that you really need to get accuracy for. On a crit build, the vorpal weapon is a huge boon.

Also, not every character goes for true symbol. If that was the case, full buy in builds would not be nearly so popular.

So, yes, there are builds where true symbol is key. But it is not even the best relic, it is something that people can pass up entirely, and in many cases, people overestimate it. Not every character who takes true symbol is getting the full benefit. Its an obvious choice, but  not necessarily the best one. Relics are awesome. True symbol is awesome.

You said your group is coming in from  D&D optimization experience. While this does transfer some things, like the importance of action economy, it will skew your view of other things. For instance, attack bonuses. In D&D, they are not worth all that much. In Legend, they have a huge impact. The best damage outputs come from high accuracy characters more than those who hit like a truck. Correspondingly, AC bonuses/penalties, save DC modifiers, the ability to avoid attacks, all are much more useful in Legend. So, it is likely that these other relics are being undervalued in their minds.
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Zaq

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Re: True Symbol--houserule?
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2013, 12:22:05 PM »
Right. The thing is that, if TS exists as written, everyone (in my group; nearly everyone not in my group) will take it immediately. The issue isn't just that we "want TS for free," but that the fact that TS is so universally desirable seems incongruous with Legend design principles. We have very little overlap in our builds up until level 10, and then suddenly we all converge on this single point? That's really weird, and to me, it seems to speak ill of TS's balance.

I'm not arguing that giving it out for free is necessarily the best option. I don't think it's necessarily a good idea on a system level, and I'm aware that it's a big power boost that shouldn't be done without a lot of careful thought. But in some ways, that's what my group is doing: if we make no houserules, we're effectively saying "at level 10, instead of a Relic, you get an extra swift action per [Round]," because we feel like anything other than TS is simply a non-option in comparison. (If you'll pardon a D&D 3.5 analogy, it's like how anything that isn't Natural Spell is a non-option for Druids at level 6, only spread across the entire system!) There are NO exceptions in my group. It's not that most of us are looking at TS at level 10, but some of us want other toys. No, ALL of us want TS at level 10. And we all recognize that that's weird.

Like I said, we're considering even just banning it, because we recognize that anything so universally desirable is probably unbalanced. We haven't decided yet. But we feel like, on some level, there's an issue.
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Mystify

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Re: True Symbol--houserule?
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2013, 12:27:59 PM »
As I said, I think a lot of your issue is that your D&D  background is skewing your view of how good various things are.

Let me ask this:

What are the swift actions everyone is going to be utilizing with this?
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Re: True Symbol--houserule?
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2013, 01:02:05 PM »
Mystify has expressed it pretty elegantly, and brought up another important thing above- the builds people are using, what are they?
http://www.ruleofcool.com/smf/index.php/topic,1185.0.html - A point-buy chassis (class) system. Perfectly balanced by the judicious application of SCIENCE!

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